The Burlington Junction station now has a new permanent home on Fairview Street and we are getting ready for its restoration, thanks to our volunteers. The Freeman Station will showcase what Burlington life was like in 1906, when it was built by the world’s largest railway, the Grand Trunk Railway System.
THE RAILWAY AGENT WAS A VIP The Station Master or Railway Agent in any town with a railway station was always a very influential and prominent citizen in their community. Railway Agents were very well respected, much like the clergy, police officers, doctors or lawyers in the community. One of the reasons for this high level of respect was due to the fact that new families moving to Canada from Europe, arrived on the scene and knew no one, often standing on the railway platform, suitcases in hand, and not knowing what to do, or where to go. The first person they saw and who offered to help them was the local Railway Agent. From meeting their first friend in Canada, new arrivals responded in kind. Often times, the town’s highly respected Railway Agent who befriended everyone, also became the local Reeve or Mayor. Trivia Question: What is the connection between Burlington’s Mayor Rick Goldring & the 1906 Station Master in Freeman? The answer is located somewhere in this fascinating 1906 Freeman Station Master’s mini-biography. Burlington 1906 The local Station Master at the Freeman Station was a very kind and generous gentleman by the name of Henry Andrew Lorimer who always went by the name Harry.
Harry was born on the family farm in Norfolk County February 8,1861 to John & Harriet Lorimer. The Lorimer family had 11 children. There were 6 boys and 5 girls. Harry was the fifth eldest child. Harry married Eleseba Evans in Cayuga on June 16, 1886. Eleseba was born April 3, 1865 and was called Seba by everyone. Together Harry & Seba had their only child, a beautiful daughter they named Gertrude, who was born February 22, 1888.
HARRY LORIMER BEGINS HIS RAILWAY CAREER
By 1881, Harry had left the family farm business. There were 4 older Lorimer brothers and one younger brother, so Harry knew the family farm was going to be in good hands. It was not going to be a problem for Harry to try his luck at something different. Young Harry was always intrigued by the railway business and wanted to be part of that exciting industry. Harry’s first railway assignment was working as a telegrapher in Norfolk County. He was only 20 years old. He honed his skills before moving on to a bigger location like Freeman and the Burlington Junction station.
The Burlington Junction was listed as being in the Sixteenth District by the Grand Trunk Railway. In 1897 the GTR had 1595 railway stations and locations, each with a number for identification. Burlington Junction was 816. The telegraph letters to identify Burlington Junction were “S Q”. This station provided day & night telegraph services. The downtown Burlington station was in the Thirteenth District, and its station number was 610. The telegraph identification for Burlington was “B”.
The Railway Agent was W.Wiggins who started there on February 27, 1889. The “Flag Stop” train station in Tansley was 611, and assigned to the Thirteenth District. There was no Agent. The Aldershot station which was identified as Waterdown until 1918 was 818, and it was in the Sixteenth District. John J. McCabe was the Railway Agent born in 1864, and he began on February 1, 1892. The telegraph letters were “”D W”.
By 1897, Harry, Seba and Gertrude were living in Freeman, and Harry was working as the Grand Trunk Railway Agent at the Burlington Junction station. It was very prestigious to be assigned as a Railway Agent to a Junction station.
There was so much activity all of the time. Burlington Junction had the double track lines running from Montreal right through to Chicago. Trains were going both ways. Then, the Grand Trunk Railway had another track running from the Niagara Region, across the Beach, through town and up to Freeman where it crossed over the double tracks continuing up to Georgetown and then up to Allandale. Burlington Junction also had freight warehouses, which were always busy with boxcars being loaded or unloaded.
The responsibility and stress levels were extremely high for Harry Lorimer. You had to be very good at your job to be the Station Master at Burlington Junction. In 1901, Harry and his family were well entrenched into Burlington’s local community.
Some of their good friends and neighbours were John Thomas Tuck and his family, plus the Ghent family, two very prominent local market gardening families. We’re all familiar with John T Tuck School on Spruce Avenue, and we all know where Ghent Avenue is located in Burlington. F.G. Ghent became Mayor of Burlington in 1917.
A HUGE CAREER CHANGE FOR HARRY LORIMER Around 1912, Harry, who was just 51 years old, made a life changing career move. Harry became a hardware merchant and bought into an established business with young Gordon Colton as his partner. Together, they bought Allen’s Hardware from James S. Allen, tinsmith (Feb 4, 1861 – May 28, 1937), who had previously purchased the business from his uncle George Allen (1844 – Feb 5, 1918) in 1901. James S. Allen went on to become Mayor of Burlington from 1925-1928.
George was Burlington’s most prominent home builder at the time, and was responsible for the building of many of Burlington’s historic homes in the downtown core, which was referred to as the Wellington Park area.
Renamed Colton & Lorimer Hardware, the store was located at the northeast corner of Brant Street and Pine Street. The store operated as a thriving hardware business well into the 1970s when it was owned by Keith Dale from Aldershot, and Keith operated it as Dale’s Hardware from about 1948. The retailing skills of Harry and Gordon were outstanding, as they both realized Burlington was growing quickly and they had to be ready. Harry and Gordon understood that they needed to still supply all of the local market gardeners with proper farm supplies, implements, and chemicals, plus they were also aware that new housing starts, and new building construction would provide incremental retail sales. Harry and Gordon knew exactly what would sell and what was necessary stock to carry in their store. Burlington was their market, and it made Harry and Gordon very successful businessmen.
The Colton & Lorimer Hardware store in 1912 supplied many hardware items to the new Central School which had just opened. Central School even produced a souvenir booklet and the local merchants supported it by placing an advertisement with the publication. The Colton & Lorimer Hardware store was undoubtedly the most successful retail location on Brant Street, and most residents in Burlington shopped there. If you were lucky enough to have a telephone, you could call Colton & Lorimer. Their number was “9”.
HARRY’S 2 CAREERS CHANGED BURLINGTON FOR THE BETTER Burlington Junction Railway Agent & Entrepreneurial Hardware Merchant affected every Burlington area resident. You bought train tickets at the station, shipped goods to and from the station, and you bought hardware merchandise from Harry’s store, for your home or business. Everyone in town knew Harry Lorimer and Harry knew everyone by name.
BURLINGTON CHAMPIONS 1912 Harry’s business partner, Gordon Colton was a very good athlete, and played hockey. Gordon was a goalie. In 1912 he helped his team become Burlington Champions.
BURLINGTON’S CELEBRATED MARRIAGE OF THE YEAR between Burlington’s Prominent Lorimer & Colton Families Everyone in Burlington was very excited about this upcoming marriage. In 1913, Harry’s beautiful daughter Gertrude married the young and dashing Gordon Duncan Colton, her father’s business partner.
However, their perfect marriage would be short lived, as Gordon tragically died from the 1918 great influenza epidemic. During their marriage, Gertrude and Gordon had a son, Gordon Bruce Colton born in 1914, and a daughter Bernice Gertrude Colton born in 1916. Bernice married Eddie McMunn. Gertrude Colton, now widowed with 2 small children became Burlington’s most sought after piano teacher, teaching many children in town how to play the piano.
Deadly Influenza Epidemic Hits Burlington Hard in 1918 100s of Burlington residents die needlessly
Harry and Seba were finally getting to enjoy the finer things in life. The hardware business was doing very well. As growing Burlington prospered, so did Harry Lorimer.
BEAUTIFUL NEW HOME PURCHASE Harry and Seba decided to purchase a new home located on beautiful Burlington Avenue. The lovely home they chose was built by Burlington’s most prominent home builder George Allen. Built in 1914 on a lot to the north of George Allen’s own house at 1391 Ontario Street.
Advertised in the 10 June 1914 edition of the Burlington Gazette: FOR SALE: An eight-roomed house with all modern conveniences and electric fixtures. Good locality, on Burlington Avenue, one block from Radial. Terms moderate. Apply to: GEO. ALLEN. City of Burlington’s MUNICIPAL REGISTER OF CULTURAL HERITAGE RESOURCES
The historic George Allen home built in 1914 at 504 Burlington Avenue is exactly 100 years old. This beautiful home was lived in by the prominent Lorimer family for 50 years, from 1914 until 1964, and at one time was added to the Municipal Register of Cultural Heritage Resources, was officially removed in 2013 from the Municipal Register of Cultural Heritage Resources, for alleged lack of historical, architectural, or contextual value.
Here is how the City of Burlington views Heritage Conservation according to their website What is Heritage Conservation? “Heritage conservation involves identifying, protecting and promoting the elements that our society values. Heritage conservation has traditionally been associated with protecting the physical or built environment (buildings, structures, landscapes, facts etc.). More recently, the term has also come to be associated with safeguarding the non-physical associations between people and a place (associations linked to use, meanings and cultural or spiritual values).” Taken from Parks Canada Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada
Why is Conservation Planning Important? The conservation of built heritage is an integral part of the land use planning process at the City of Burlington. It entails planning for the identification, protection and promotion of the heritage resources that our community values. Burlington’s heritage is a living legacy that helps us understand our past, provides us context for the present and influences our future.
Why Conserve our Heritage? The conservation of cultural and heritage properties is vital to a community’s overall cultural and economic development and it can enrich our lives, inspire us and create a sense of community that can sustain generations. The Heritage planning process in Burlington is overseen by staff in consultation with the Heritage Burlington Committee.
HARRY LORIMER, became one of Burlington’s MOST OUTSTANDING Entrepreneurial Business Leaders during the early part of the 20th century
Elgin Harris Publisher of the Burlington Gazette for 57 years died in 1975 in his 99th year. He lived on Locust Street where A Different Drummer Bookstore is now located. At one time this store was owned by Richard Bachmann and his wife, the late Jane Irwin. Elgin served as Reeve in 1921 and Mayor in 1923-1924
HARRY LORIMER ALMOST MADE IT TO 100 A well respected kind gentle man who gave so much to his community and asked for nothing in return; sadly, a man that was forgotten by Burlington Harry lived to be 99 years old, and passed away peacefully in 1960. His beloved wife Seba died 10 years earlier at 85 years of age in 1950. Their cherished daughter Gertrude died at 76 years of age in 1964, and her adored husband Gordon died at 31 years of age in 1918. They are all buried together as family, in Aldershot’s historic Greenwood Cemetery.
Trivia Answer: Mayor Rick Goldring, while in university, worked in Greenwood Cemetery as a groundskeeper in 1978-79, and he made sure that the Lorimer/Colton headstone and markers were properly cared for.
Historic Greenwood Cemetery is located on land donated by John Waldie, Burlington’s first Reeve, owner of Waldie’s General Store at Water Street (Lakeshore Road) & John Street, and the man responsible for Burlington’s first library located where the City Hall stands now, who also donated the first 6,000 books to the library. John Waldie donated the stained glass windows to Knox Presbyterian Church.
Mr. Waldie went on to become Canada’s second most powerful lumber baron. John Waldie was a former Member of Parliament, and confidant to Sir Wilfred Laurier.
All residents of Burlington owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Lorimer and Colton families. These two dynamic families weretrue genuine pillars of the community, and did far more than their fair share in helping to build, shape and drive Burlington’s economic engine so efficiently into the 20th century. Thank you Harry
Mark Gillies Friends of Freeman Station Fundraising & Membership Chairman www.freemanstation.ca